How three women are changing the game in children’s books
Sailaja Joshi and her team are shaping a new landscape of children’s books with carefully woven stories focused on Indian culture. In the midst of a rapid social change in America, Bharat Babies seeks to share with children culture rich stories.
The idea of Bharat Babies was conceived as Sailaja prepared for her first baby shower back in 2013. She looked for books that reflected her Indian culture she could read to her child, only to be disappointed.
“Anything that had something to do with Indian culture was hard to find,” Sailaja explained.
“Stories that were there were meant for older children and were culturally inaccurate. Sometimes they were culturally insensitive, which was really problematic.”
While discussing this issue with a friend and the thoughts of her newborn’s arrival, she decided to start this company dedicated to sharing stories set in the Indian household. Her sister named it Bharat (Hindi for Indian) Babies.
Her conviction only grew stronger as she also began her PhD program in sociology.
“I realized that so much of the social inequality that was happening and the shifting of people’s perspectives could start from birth.”
After taking a few stabs at writing the first book herself, she recognized that it would take a more talented team to move it forward.
“There is a specific way in which great books are written. And those books put the child first. It was really important for me to have the perspective of teachers, parents, people who use these books on a daily basis.”
Bharat Babies is a talented team of authors who also serve as early childhood educators, advisors who offer key insights of the various Indian cultures, and illustrators with the ability to accurately paint the story.
They are passionate about providing the opportunity for children of color to see themselves in mainstream narratives.
“Our vision is to paint those universal themes that make us human beings and help articulate them through the stories of India’s culture of community and heritage,” she explains. “We’re always going to have these stories that focus on Hinduism, Islam; but also telling those rich, diverse stories in a universal way so that any parent can relate to them and use them as teaching tools in the household.”
Developing the first book was only one half the battle. Getting it to children across the world was a completely different beast. And with her second child on the way this time around, she didn’t have the luxury of time on her side.
“I remember getting the final print ship date for Hanuman and the Orange Sun and I think it was June 15th and my date with my son was June 16th. And I was like ‘cool, I’m possibly going to have 2 thousand books in my house and a newborn,’ she remembers.
“My parents were like ‘It’s fine, ship them to us!’ Because they have a much bigger house. And I said, ‘I think you guys are crazy. I don’t think this is possible.’ ”
On that timeline, yes, her situation was tight. She raised money for the company’s first book through Northeastern’s IDEA program and because her mentor at the university, she connected with Shotput who would quell her fears.
“I got an email from Greg, who’s part of IDEA, he’s one of the mentors. And he said, ‘I want to introduce you to this company. They offer fulfillment services.’ I talked to you guys [Shotput] and it was like a match made in heaven for me.”
We, at Shotput, certainly felt the same way as we wanted to help them grow. And the relationship between us certainly has become stronger as we continue to find the best ways to run their operation.
“And since then it’s been really phenomenal… we really appreciate that Shotput is so upfront and honest with us and so responsive to customer issues and provide us with the best customer service that we couldn’t get anywhere.”
“I think we have this relationship that we’re truly invested in each other’s future.”
Within its first year, Bharat Babies now has 7 children’s books in its lineup and authors clamoring to write for them everyday. This is only the beginning of a beautiful journey as they plan to expand their books to several more countries.